PhotoU.S.-based employers pulled back sharply in trimming their workforces in May.

Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports announced job cuts totaled 30,157 last month -- down 53% from April and the lowest number of terminations since last December.

So far this year, employers have announced 275,218 job cuts -- up 13% compared to the first five months of 2015.

“May could be the start of a summer slowdown in the pace of job cutting as companies take a pause following the period of heavy downsizing that started the year,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “In general, oil prices have improved somewhat since the beginning of the year, though they are still less than half of what they were at oil’s recent peak. However, the recent gains may be enough to at least temporarily slow job cuts in the sector.”

Energy absorbs the reductions

Monthly job cuts were led by the energy sector, though the May total was down significantly from previous months. Firms in the sector announced another 7,572 terminations in May -- 60% fewer than in April.

They have now announced 75,232 job cuts this year -- up 25% from January through April a year ago.

Most industries saw job cuts decline in May. Among the most significant was the computer industry, where they plunged 83% from April. Reductions also occurred in the financial sector (-68%), and retailing (-75%).

“Of course, not every summer brings a slowdown in job cuts,” said Challenger. “Last July saw announced layoffs soar to a four-year high of 105,696. However, last year’s spike was due primarily to massive troop and civilian cuts in the military. Being an election year, it is unlikely that we will see any major workforce changes at the federal level of the government.”  

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